Juliet Lubega


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The Governess

“Well, I always tell my girls it’s better to mistrust people at first,” said the lady at the Governess Bureau. This poignant sentence stung like a bee in my ears. I raised my head and looked at her sternly, looking for an explanation as to why she had said this. My lips trembled and suddenly I got second thoughts as to what I was letting myself into taking up a position as governess in an English family on Diplomatic service in Germany.

I felt my stomach turn and the palm of my right hand started to sweat as I clung on to the large envelope she had just handed me. She jerked her head upwards and looked straight at me, her large blue eyes sparkling and her long brown hair falling loosely on her shoulders. I was taken aback by her beauty, her soft velvet skin, the long pointed nose and high cheeks. In a soft caring voice she asked “Did I just scare you?”. ”No madam, I am alright” I replied trying to compose myself.

As I lifted my brown suitcase off the floor, ready to leave the Bureau the lady walked towards me and gave me a pat on my shoulder and said reassuringly “you will be alright”.

My taxi arrived shortly. A fifteen minute journey to the train station seemed an internity as I took in all the surroundings of my home town, We turned right from the Bureau into Middle Lane and passed the Bank where my mother used to work all those years ago. The City Council Offices, a large white building staring at us ahead. As we passed the Central Gardens the memories of my mother taking me for children’s out door parties in the summer holidays started to surface. A strict disciplinarian who taught me to respect adults, my mother was always careful of the people I spoke to every time we went to these Gardens, just like the lady at the Bureau had just told me.

The town, my childhood and old life faded away as the train pulled out of the station to Dover. I felt a new responsibility tower upon my shoulders, exciting but daunting prospects of a new life abroad.

Two seats away from where I was sitting on the train I noticed a lady, about middle age. She reminded me of my Aunty Cathy who loved ribbons, just like her she had a red ribbon in her silver grey hair, her large forehead showing through. She was wearing a red jumper on top of a white embroidered blouse, a floral round skirt and red pumps. Her hands placed firmly on top of her red handbag lying upon her lap. She constantly looked at me sideways through her brown framed spectacles with a twitch on her lips, smeared with bright thick red lipstick.

Aunty Cathy was my Father’s youngest sister who lived on her own in a cottage at the outskirts of our town. I loved her Sunday roast, and often popped down to see her for Sunday lunch on the days she wasn’t busy attending the Women Church group which prepared tea for the Sunday Mass congregation at the Parish Church.

“Send me a telegram when you arrive in Munich, will you?” she said, just as we sipped our last drops of tea two days ago. It felt like Jesus and his twelve disciples on their last supper. I will miss her, I thought to myself as she had become my soul mate since my parents had been killed in a road accident ten years ago. Aunty Cathy had been my rock, my parental guide. I could sense the concern in her voice about me flying the nest to work abroad. She probably quietly would have preferred me to find a husband and marry in her local church but as usual she was supportive of my decisions.

Arriving at Dover the Ferry was nearly ready for Departure across the Channel. The journey was over before I realised. It had been nice in the Ladies cabin. The stewardess was so kind and had changed my money for me. She also kindly tucked my feet inside the travel blanket as I dozed off for a nap to wean off my exhaustion.

I gathered the bottom of my pleated skirt and sized the weight on my suitcase before putting it down again. Sighing loudly beneath my breath I looked at the flight of stairs above me, wondering how I was going to get the suitcase up on the train platform.

Then just as the whistle sound echoed through the station, an old man wrapped in a plaid cape climbed up the high step next to me. He looked very old, 90 at least. He gazed at me as I checked my watch to establish the boarding time for the train to Munich. In an assuming tone of voice he asked “You have been in Germany before of course?”
I replied “Oh no, this is the first time I have ever been abroad at all”

 

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2015)

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Every Year

Tulips announce the month of May
I wake up to the sound of the birds
The long days and the short nights

May hands over to June
June to July
Before we know
It is August.

I feel the heat of the blazing sun
Like the bare African savannah trees
Till September arrives

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2015)


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The Garden Gate

When Ralph proposed to install a small gate to connect the garden with their neighbour, Joyce didn’t think much of it. “That is fine by me” she told him while she scrapped the last bits of food off the blue polka plate and placed it in the dish washer.
“I don’t have to go around to the front door and knock then?” Tammi asked, breaking into a smile and looking at her Mum. Her braids dangling at the back on her neck. Yellow and white beads attached to their edges. She was dressed in her yellow Pudsey onesie and holding the Barbie doll, their neighbour Ronke gave her for Christmas
Her smile revealed gaps in her teeth.
“How much money did the tooth fairy give you last time? Joyce asked as she smiled back at her daughter.
“So can I go through the gate to play with Nia?” Tammi asked again, her brown deep set eyes darting from her Mum to her Dad.
“ Off course, you can go through the garden” Ralph replied
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
Joyce wondered why her husband’s car was parked outside the house at mid-day. Her eyes surveyed the black BMW looking peaceful as it sat in the drive. She looked through its class windows and saw just a pile of papers scattered at the back. She thought he had decided to come back home early as he had complained of a feeling un-well in the morning.
She tip toed up to the door balancing her red high heels on the rugged pavement. She slotted the key in its hole and slowly opened the door.
The kettle was boiling, and the noise filled the air through the partly opened door. She walked straight into the kitchen. A partly dressed Ralph, in his white vest and red boxers holding two mugs and a bottle of milk hit her between the eyes. She felt like ice cold water had been thrown all over her body. Frozen on the spot, her fingers felt sweaty as she held her hand bag and keys in a firm grip.
The shock of seeing his wife sent Ralph in a panic, his arm trembled and the mugs fell to the floor with a loud bang. The pieces scattered on the black and lime green tiles. One piece flew towards Joyce and landed on her feet.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Water was flushed in the toilet next to the door that leads into the garden, and they both turned their eyes to that direction. For the first time Joyce realised it was open.
The toilet door opened from inside, and Ronke appeared in the door way, her bare chest standing out on top of tightly tied multi coloured African kitengi.
Joyce turned to her husband as she felt the warmth of the tears welling in her eyes. She felt empty and lost for words.
She looked at toilet door, her gaze pierced through the tense atmosphere straight through Ronke’s stomach.
Ronke slowly walked to the back door, into the garden and through the gate back to her house.
“So Tammi can go through the garden gate to play with Nia”she shouted at Ralph.

 

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2015)

 


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Busted

She flicked her long black eye lashes. Mascara trickled from each corner of her eyes like a double water tap. Her eyes filled with tears. She knew they were crocodile tears. There was no explanation.
He paced up and down. Every step he took his feet hurt. His towering figure nearly touched the ceiling. He felt so dark in a well lit room as his head almost knocked the light bulb from its socket. It swung from side to side .He looked at her with fire in his eyes. She seemed so small underneath his contempt. He couldn’t work out whether it was anger or pity he felt for her. The turmoil of his emotions made his chest hurt.
The phone lay on the soft hairy blue bedroom carpet, the light rays reflected on its face and it glittered. She looked at the small silver case that had carried her secrets for the last ten years. It lay there like a rival who had finally had revenge. The code name and number of the lover she now wished she never met and, the times and laughter they shared in the dark flashed under the light in a text message; “I can’t wait to hold you again in my arms tonight”.
Their eyes met. She felt his gaze penetrating her skin and chills run through her body. She relived the dreaded minutes she had walked to the bathroom without her phone.
His face was blank as he opened his mouth and closed it, lost for words. She turned side ways to face their dressing table. Her make up lay scattered on the table in the same way she had left it before the ill judged trip to the bathroom. The black skin powder case was open, its mirror side dazzled under the bulb light. The sponge was on top of the floral tissue where she left it and the eye shadow compartment in different shades of blue was besides.
She wished he could say something instead of looking at her like a piece of meat ready for the roast.”Pick up your phone” he said with a smirk.”He is waiting for you” he continued.
He then picked up his car keys from the bedside cabinet and walked towards the door. As he placed his palm on the handle he turned back and said “I hope you find what you are looking for”
She just looked in space as a mosquito buzzed next to her ears. The phone rang.

Juliet.Lubega (unpublished 2015)


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Relief

I suddenly raised my head and slowly turned it around the room, it is still, the silence is deafening as if nothing exists. You can almost feel the walls move and the ceiling murmur. The air seems to whistle and the movement of the pen marks every sound like footsteps. The room has large windows, with half pulled blinds through which pops the tops of the houses in the opposite street. The sky is scarlet blue with silver grey clouds and a trail of aircraft lining the flight path.

I can feel my stomach turning, reminding me of my physical needs against my emotions which have occupied me for the last 12 hours. The smell down from the cooking downstairs reminds me of how long I have been working on this story. There is bitterness in my mouth as I pour out my recollection of events on this piece of paper. Reliving my past has never tasted so sour.

I then realised that I haven’t opened the mail of the day. The pile of envelopes rests in the same spot I hastily put it in when I first got into the room. I had spent a restless night debating on how I want the last chapter of my book to shape. It is the book I had my eyes set on to provide income to save my home, that opening mail was bottom of my priority list.

I gently stood up, taking care as if releasing my bottom from glue on the chair seat. After a long yawn and stretch almost with intention of starting an exercise class I walked towards the small wooden circular table to pick the pile of letters.

My hands froze as I looked at this particular white envelope; I turned it on the other side to have an idea where it had been sent from. The post code at the back was very telling. It was from the bank. I clung on to it as if my life depended on it while the rest of the letters tumbled to the floor. I then felt an electric shock through my body, hissing in my ears and my head spinning as I fumbled to open it .It threw back my memory to the day I lost my job, two years ago. The coldness in the voice of the Company manager as he relayed the decision of the Board to me; “You have been made redundant with immediate effect on a 6 months pay in advance”

Life had turned to the worst as I struggled to keep up with my mortgage payments and cost of living. My savings had since dried up and I was falling back of my financial commitments by the month. Having secured a book deal through old acquaintances and almost 15 years experience in publishing, the book I was writing was expected to be my saviour.” If only the mortgage lender could wait a few more weeks everything will be alright”, I found myself loudly speaking to the still air.

As I opened the envelope, my lids began to move uncontrollably. Fearing the worst, my eyes filled with tears. As I had one more glance through the windows, the house tops seemed to be moving away, growing smaller and smaller in the distance. I jerked to keep my feet firm on the ground. The contents of the letter were not as bad as I first thought. The bank had agreed to give me 6 more months of grace from mortgage payments. I took a depth breath to release the tension of the last few minutes which seemed an eternity and slowly walked back to my chair to resume my writing.

© Juliet Lubega (unplublished 2010)


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Used

Veronica felt hot and sweaty as she turned his words over and over in her mind. “I thought we were in this together?”She searched in his eyes for clues. He was stone faced and cold, with a smirk, he replied “What do you mean?”.”Starting a life together in the UK with the children” she said and kept her eyes straight into his.
A tear trickled down her cheek and she gently wiped it off with the tissue. She wasn’t sure why she was crying, maybe she felt sorry for him.
She gripped her palm and felt her warm sweat against the fluffy paper. She held on tight, biting her teeth together as she held her balance
He sat down on the red stool next to the dressing table. Holding his passport in his left hand and tapping his right foot on the burgundy bedroom carpet.
“We are going to live together?” he said as he turned the passport over and over as if his life now depended on it.
“You just said you are going to Uganda for six months” Veronica said.
“Yes but I am not going for good. Am I?” .He picked up a brush from the dressing table looking at her through the mirror.

Veronica moved from the bed and stood in view of the mirror. He was smiling to himself. She felt a surge of anger sweep through her body like a wave.
“You know we are four months in arrears on our mortgage” she reminded him.
“I know”
Whilst brushing his hair, he turned and looked at her
What is going to happen while you are away?
“I don’t know”
She opened her mouth and closed it.
“What?”
Where do you live?
“I live here”
His words hit Veronica like hot flame. The arrogance in his voice felt painful in her ears.
“Who is the father of these two children?”
“Me”
“Do you expect me to keep up with the mortgage and look after the children alone?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “Aren’t you working?”
“What are you going to do in Uganda anyway?”
“I will see”
His arrogance sent her head spinning
She realised that since Kagwa got a better job he has been saving up for this trip behind her back.

 

©Juliet Lubega (unpublished 2014)